I’m a fairly adventurous eater. I’ll try most any type of cuisine. Moroccan, Ethiopian, Middle Eastern, Mongolian.
I remember the first time I had sushi. I was about 12 years old, and my mom took my brother (who was 14) and I to a Japanese restaurant. I was thrilled at the idea of trying this very sophisticated and grown-up food; Ryan was a bit wary. When our dishes came, Ryan saw that his came with a big pile of smoked salmon, which he loved. He immediately put a whole handful in his mouth.
But it wasn’t smoked salmon.
It was pickled ginger.
Have you ever seen the face of a teenage boy who has just, unbeknownst to him, eaten a massive mouthful of pickled ginger? It’s like a cartoon; steam from the ears, face turns bright red. He quickly spit it out and declared sushi to be “totally gross”. It took him until he was about 20 or so to really appreciate sushi. That pickled ginger stays with you.
But, regardless of ginger mishaps, I loved sushi that first try. It was really what started me on stepping outside of my food comfort zone. If raw fish could be so delicious, what else is out there?
San Francisco is an awesome city for eating. So much diversity, both culturally and economically. Perfect for a cash-poor foodie like me.
The first time I had Thai food was in San Francisco. I was with my roommates, wandering aimlessly around 9th and Irving and completely starving. We went into a tiny, hole-in-the-wall Thai restaurant on a whim (mainly because Gordo’s had a line out the door). I had fresh spring rolls with mi krop and a green papaya salad.
Heaven after the first bite.
I love me some Thai food. I think it’s an excellent cuisine for people just venturing out of their own little food box. A lot of common flavors are utilized, just in different preparations and combinations. Garlic, cilantro, basil, lime, rice, coconut.
This dish uses some subtle Thai flavors, with lemongrass, ginger, garlic, cilantro and lime. A little rice vinegar, brown rice noodles, shrimp, red bell pepper and mushrooms. I did a side salad of cucumber, tomato, green beans and carrot, all julienned, with a very simple lime vinaigrette. Just light, bright and very Thai-ish. Adventurous but still close enough to home that anyone could enjoy it. And no pickled ginger to be found
Thai-Style Noodles with Shrimp
2 lemongrass stalks, whites only, roughly chopped
2 whole garlic cloves
1” piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
1 lime, juiced and zested
3 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
10 oz. rice noodles
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 lb. medium-sized shrimp, uncooked, deveined and tails removed
2 cups white mushrooms, sliced
1 red bell pepper, julienned
3 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. black sesame seeds
In a food processor, combine lemongrass, garlic, ginger, lime juice and zest and cilantro. Process until it reaches a paste consistency. Set aside
In a large saucepan, boil rice noodles in salted water until al dente, about 4-5 minutes. Drain and rinse. Toss with a little vegetable oil to keep from sticking.
In a large skillet or wok, heat 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add shrimp and cook until pink, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and bell pepper and cook until tender, about 6-8 minutes. Add herb paste and rice wine vinegar and toss to coat. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve immediately.
Raw Vegetable Thai Salad
1 English cucumber, peeled and julienned
2 large carrots, peeled and julienned
1/2 lb. fresh green beans, cut in half lengthwise
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
Large pinch of sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Combine all vegetables in a large bowl. In a measuring cup or small bowl, combine lime juice, rice wine vinegar and sugar. Whisk in vegetable oil to emulsify. Pour over vegetables and toss. Serve immediately.